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Plea to open jute mills to save crops

In the absence of enough jute packaging bags, the textiles ministry is worried about the fate of the harvest

By Arkamoy Datta Majumdar in Calcutta
  • Published 5.04.20, 3:29 AM
  • Updated 5.04.20, 3:29 AM
  • a min read
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Scarcity of bags Telegraph picture

The Union ministry of textiles has urged the Bengal government to consider opening jute mills, which are closed because of the nationwide lockdown, so that the procurement of jute bags isn’t disrupted. The ministry is facing a shortfall of 6.1 lakh bales of jute bags required for the packaging of the rabi crop.

In the absence of enough jute packaging bags, the textiles ministry is worried about the fate of the harvest across the country.

Procurement of the rabi crop begins in April and continues for two-three weeks. Major procuring states like Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have sought an additional 40,000 jute bales this year. One bale is equivalent to around 500 jute bags.

“Bengal makes up over 85 per cent of the total jute produced in the country and the fate of the rabi crop depends on what decision the state government takes on opening the jute mills,” a source said.

There are 59 operational jute mills in Bengal and another 20-odd in other states. Together, these mills can produce 3 lakh bales a month. For this rabi season, the food ministry had placed a demand of around 19.50 lakh bales, for which procurement began in November.

In view of a higher demand and the 21-day lockdown, the textiles ministry has allowed the use of plastic bags equivalent to 1.8 lakh jute bales. However, a food ministry official said this would not be enough to make up for the shortfall. The Jute Packaging Materials Act, 1987, mandates the use of only jute bags in the packaging of food grains, although exceptions are often made.

A senior Bengal government official said the textiles ministry’s proposal was being considered. “All the protocols have to be in place. We might discuss the issue on Monday,” another official said.